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Friday, February 24, 2012

John Ramsey Miller

Recently, as I’ve discussed here before, I binge-read a load of Zombie Apocalypse books just hoping to read something for entertainment and are they ever. I read several standalones and several series. In my quest I stumbled across an author by the name of Mark Tufo, who writes in the the Zombie Quadrant of the horror genre. His ZOMBIE FALLOUT series is to die …and reanimate for.

You don’t have to be a horror fan, much less a fan of Zombie books to enjoy the series. The books I read a while back were the first Zombie books I’ve ever read. Sure I’m a fan of George Romero movies, and those of other directors of Zombie films. But watching a film and committing to reading for a hours over the course of days is a different matter.

Zombie books are more of a Western story with zombies as Indians chasing a wagon train filled with settlers but who have to aim strictly for the heads of the attacking tribal warriors. I love westerns, even if they are cast with zombies. As I was going on about the books to friends, my wife decided to try one. I suggested the first of his Zombie Fallout series. Ten minutes in (on the kindle) I heard her laughing as she read. She read all four in a few days, just as I did. They are beautifully constructed, frightening and humorous. Tufo is a self-described blue collar guy, and he writes as well as most any author I know. Mark’s a Marine (there are no ex-Marines) and he has a natural gift for this writing thing. He gives great characters, action, descriptions, settings, knows survival strategies, and weapons.

And his Zombies are amazing. His Zombies stink to a degree that you generally smell them long before you see them. Just think thirty male skunks fighting while sealed inside of a septic tank filled with cat offal and rotting hamburger meat packed into two-day-old shrimp heads. His descriptions of them are gut-wrenching, easy to imagine, and often hilarious.

Tufo’s Zombies answer a lot of questions I have to ask about Zombies as portrayed in other books and films. MTz’s (Mark Tufo’s zombies) are not technically dead at all. If Zombies were dead they would decompose to immobility in very short order. Wait in a basement for a few weeks and it’s all over. His Zombies are infected by a virus, but their hearts are beating just very, very slowly. You blow up their heart and they will still go on for a long while. Since they eat, they move human flesh through their systems with the hygienic awareness of infants. In the winter they slow down and hibernate until a meal happens along. When they aren’t looking for food, they rest in piles so they won’t waste energy. TMz’s also have a leader who is a vampire who drank the blood of someone infected with the Zombiizer virus.

So anyway Mark Tufo was until recently completely self-published (this is his second series) and his books have accumulated quite a following. Although he has never published conventionally, a large well-established company that we are all familiar with is going to do audio releases of the Zombie Fallout series. A small publisher of horror books has published one his novellas, TIMOTHY, but he is holding on to his eBook rights because there is nothing a publisher can do in that area. His eBooks are selling very nicely, and 65% of the people who read his first installment of Zombie Fallout go on and read the rest. That is an impressive carry over rate for a series from an unknown author.

TIMOTHY is a novella written from a Zombie’s perspective. Timothy is an ex-football player who is dressed as a clown when he turns due to being bitten by an infected child at a birthday party. Timothy is aware of what is happening and is not driven insane by the invading entity (constantly screaming, "EAT!") as most of the turned are. In time, Timothy makes a deal with the invading entity so he is able to enjoy shared control of his powerful body, which is a win/win for both Timbo the entity. So he can think as usual, open doors, move fast and talk. By the way, Timothy was a sociopath and makes a perfect vessel.

WARNING: TIMOTHY one is not for the weak at heart, or those with a low threshold for acute grossness. Cozy fans would be well advised to stick with Agatha.

I sent him a laudatory email after reading his books. I have exchanged emails with him and had one telephone conversation with him about writing and publishing. I offered a blurb, which he accepted. I hope that helps him somehow. It never helped me having my name on my books. I am not writing this to sell Mark’s books. Plain fact is he makes more money than almost all of us do.

We all understand that there are more very talented authors in the world than published books would bear testament to.

Mark has completed the fifth, and, almost certainly, not the last Fallout book. He and his wife, Tracy, are getting it ready to set to selling it. Good, cause I can’t wait to get back to the fun.

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